Ethology of the veterinarian, part II

VeterinarianThis is the second in a series of articles wherein we will attempt to articulate some of the common idiosyncrasies described by experienced owners of Homo herriotus pollulus (the common small animal veterinarian). The first article, The Husbandry and Feeding of Veterinarians, was met with relief by some, who finally had explanations for the bizarre behaviors they were witnessing. We hope to expand the topic here, for the edification of those who are forced (or choose) to interact with veterinarians regularly outside of a professional relationship.

Warning: The following paragraphs may be disturbing to those in the early stages of owning a veterinarian (a.k.a. the “OMG it’s SO ADORABLE!” period). If you do not think you will be able to handle these recurrent peculiar behaviors, you may need to consider rehoming your veterinarian before it imprints.

Mystery odors. If your veterinarian comes home and smells like it rolled in a fish that was washed up on the beach and fermented in the full heat of the sun for a week then dipped in a vat of zombie remains, do not panic. This is not a disease. Your veterinarian will probably acknowledge the smell but appear to be helpless to find the source. It will sniff its clothing and body, even trying to smell its own hair in an attempt to localize the odor. The only solution is a vigorous scrubbing (including shampoo if your veterinarian has hair) and laundering of all of the clothing it was wearing, including intimate garments. Encourage your veterinarian to use more Kleenex when expressing anal sacs and, for heaven’s sake, not to look while performing the procedureNo good ever comes of that.

Non-anorectal body fluids. Your veterinarian will have a talent for getting blood, urine, and other secretions in the oddest places, and may be incapable of noticing. It may come home with a fine arterial spray of delicately dotted dried blood right across its face and be completely unmindful. The back of the arm, side of the neck, elbows, in the ear, all are places that blood (or sometimes cow dung) might be found. This is normal and usually the sign of a “good day”.

Cardboard box obsession. Your veterinarian may develop a nearly cat-like attraction to cardboard boxes. When your veterinarian declares a box to be “perfect for a hamster” or “just the right size for a cat” you would be forgiven for assuming it wants to give the box to a small creature for a home or bed. You may be shocked to discover that your veterinarian is actually sizing the item up for use as a tiny coffin.


Please do not think that your veterinarian is a morbid freak; its intentions are honorable. After euthanasia some owners take the bodies of their pets home for burial. It is important for your veterinarian to have a small stockpile of appropriately sizes boxes to send the little patients off with privacy and dignity. You can help by pointing out potential caskets rather than just tossing them into the recycle bin.

Unusual personal hygiene. Your veterinarian may wash its hands before and after using the washroom. This appears to be some kind of elimination rite that is not specifically taught, but spread from veterinarian to veterinarian. It is relatively harmless and may serve a function in maintaining immunity. Unless you know exactly where its hands have been, do not discourage your veterinarian from partaking in this practice.

An issue with tissues. As distressing as you may find it, your veterinarian may inadvertently come home with items of “gore” stuck to it, usually in a pocket or adhering to a shoe. The most common offenders are cat testicles, though you may see gobs of subcutaneous fat or small tumors occasionally. Again, veterinarians are bewilderingly oblivious to this occurrence and it is difficult to train them to notice, but once pointed out most veterinarians will rapidly find the object, examine it excitedly, and dispose of it. (A small subset of veterinarians may see this as an opportunity to flirt with you by making suggestive noises and prancing about pretending that the testicle is an earring or other body decoration. Ignore this behavior and it will probably extinguish itself.)

Bottom line: If you have not yet bonded strongly with your veterinarian it is not too late to avoid these potentially off-putting events. Breaking up is hard to do, but it’s kinder to reject your veterinarian now that wait until it develops a more dog-like devotion to you.

If you have already bonded strongly, you may find sympathy from other who are likewise the “other” species in the veterinarian-human relationship. Consider forming a support group. I suggest meeting in a bar; you may need to take up drinking.

Cat in a box image from Archieli

4 thoughts on “Ethology of the veterinarian, part II

  1. Very cute and true too. My poor husband would probably agree with all of the above but it’s too late for us.we are impossibly twisted in our connections and idiosyncrasies.

    Thanks Dr Sara

    On Friday, January 22, 2016, Claws Carefully Sheathed wrote:

    > Claws posted: “This is the second in a series of articles wherein we will > attempt to articulate some of the common idiosyncrasies described by > experienced owners of Homo herriotus pollulus (the common small animal > veterinarian). The first article, The Husbandry and Feed” >


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